Exclusive Q&A: Ron Perlman on his Memoir, “EASY STREET (THE HARD WAY)”Books/Art/Culture,Features/Interviews,Home,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
Though he’s worn many faces over the course of his illustrious career, there are few horror fans that wouldn’t immediately recognize Ron Perlman. The hard-jawed actor from films such as HELLBOY, ALIEN: RESURRECTION and THE LAST WINTER, Perlman has seen every corner of the entertainment industry and then some. So it may not be a surprise that the genre-friendly thespian has taken his experiences to the page with his new memoir, EASY STREET (THE HARD WAY). FANGORIA caught up with Perlman in an exclusive chat about the memoir, his future work and what genre films EASY STREET will shed some light upon…
FANGORIA: What inspired you to write your memoirs now?
RON PERLMAN: Well, I thought it was a good time because I’m not dead yet and that would have been too late. But I’m at an age where I’m coming down the wrong side of the hill, and that journey is faster than you can imagine. I also have a couple of kids who are at the age where they’re done with school and they’re slowing down as they figure out what they want to be doing to contribute to society. It turns out they’re both going into careers in the arts, and since I’ve had nothing but a great career in the arts, I have so many rewards as a result of this long and winding road. So I thought I’d have something to say and I’d lend my perspective to help make their paths a little bit clearer and their roads a little bit easier. There are times when you’re filled with self-doubt, and I’d love to help make people a little more resolve-oriented.
FANG: With EASY STREET (THE HARD WAY), how much of the memoirs are of your upbringing and personal life and how much covers your career in the arts?
PERLMAN: Basically, one thing informed the other. They’re both intertwined, and my success in the business is very much wrapped up in my success as a human. My quests to become more comfortable in my own skin and evolve as a man is a reflection of things that I learned from failing and succeeding in my career. There were things I learned from being deprived of work for those long periods of time, almost two to three-year gaps at a time, where I had to reach back and figure out how to sustain myself through those times.
So EASY STREET is a combination of both of those things. It’s very cathartic to recall the events of your life and put a name to the landmarks, so that when you look back on it, it’s like, “Without this, there wouldn’t have been this,” or, “This definitely had a major effect on that happening, even though that happened years later.” It’s a very moving thing to do, and I recommend everyone sit down and write their memoir, whether it’s being published or not or if you think it has any bearing on the human race. It’s just something I think you should do for yourself when you get into your 60s and 70s to get a perspective that you might not have found otherwise.
FANG: You’ve played a wide variety of tough guys and off-kilter characters over the years, which is pretty far from your liberal and humble real life personality. Is there anything about yourself that you think might surprise your fans in this memoir?
PERLMAN: I don’t know. That would be a question for the readers of the book. Now that I’m on social media and I have all of these followers and detractors, you never know how anybody is going to take what you say or do. What the book clearly does is tell the world what I think about the life I’ve led, where I think I’ve fallen down, where I think I could have done better, and where I think I have excelled beyond my wildest dreams.
When you get to a certain age, you look back on life and realize that you’ve had way more blessings than you could have imagined and how essential it is you say, “Thank You,” in as many ways as you possibly can. If one of those ways is to go, “Here’s my story, for one and for all, with all the negatives mixed in with the positives, including all of the times where it was depressing and I never thought I’d work my way out of it,” then maybe people won’t feel as lonely when they go through those times. Everybody who is alive feels pain and rejection. Everybody who is alive has those low moments; sometimes so low that they don’t know whether they’re going to come out of it or not. So I’ll use my life as an example and say, “It’s not just you. Even a guy who is on TV and in the movies can have these times. And if you don’t think you’ll ever get out of those tough times, there are ways.” So that’s another reason why I wanted to write the book.
FANG: You’ve been involved with myriad strange genre projects, such as THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN and THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. Does the book speak to your experiences on your genre work?
PERLMAN: I go into great detail on QUEST FOR FIRE, THE NAME OF THE ROSE, both HELLBOY movies, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, working with Marlon Brando on THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU, SONS OF ANARCHY, and HAND OF GOD, which is an Amazon Pilot that’s being greenlit into a series as we speak. EASY STREET is really comprehensive, and it really takes you onto the sets of those films. There are also a lot of anecdotes, including my experiences with Sean Connery, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis.
I’m really proud of those showbiz moments; some of them are incredibly entertaining and very funny. I don’t want to give people the impression that this is a “how to” book or a self-improvement book. This thing is littered with a lot of crazy ass anecdotes.
FANG: With your storied career aside, do you think your memoirs might open more avenues to you as an actor?
PERLMAN: As an actor, I couldn’t have been in a better spot than I am in now. I’m being offered some truly incredible roles, but the best role I’ve ever played is this one in HAND OF GOD. The role is Pernell Harris and the show has been streaming for over a month now, but it’s likely the most challenging role I’ve ever taken. But these roles tend to get more complex and richer as time goes along, so long after I should have been counted out, things have just been getting better and better. I don’t have aspirations anymore as an actor because what I’m being offered in reality is closer to what I dream of anyways.
FANG: As an actor, you seem to be drifting more towards the realm of television with SONS OF ANARCHY and, now, HAND OF GOD. What is it that attracts you to working in television as opposed to work in major motion pictures?
PERLMAN: I think we’re in the golden age of television. This is one of the most exciting times that you can be in television, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on that. It’s a historic moment when the best directors in the world are going to direct television pilots. HAND OF GOD had Marc Forster, who had never directed television before, and David Fincher is doing work on Netflix. The greatest writers in the industry right now are all writing on television because there are so many networks who are trying to outdo one another with how edgy they can be and raise their storytelling.
Television is where the action is right now. As soon as it was looking as if my time was up on SONS OF ANARCHY, I segued immediately into HAND OF GOD. I want to continue being in this historic moment.
FANG: Do you see any future in writing at all, whether it be another memoir or something entirely fictional?
PERLMAN: I don’t have any plans to write anything else although I will say I had more fun writing EASY STREET than I ever thought I would. I wrote more of it than I thought I would; I had a co-writer [Michael Largo] but I did a lot of the writing myself because I really fell in love with the process. I’m not adverse to the idea of writing something else, though I don’t think it’ll be another memoir. I pretty much told my story and said everything I wanted to say in this book, but if I can come up with something compelling to write about, I sure would.
FANG: Do you have any other projects you’re working on at the moment?
PERLMAN: Yeah, I actually just set up a Film Fund called “Wing and A Prayer Pictures,” which will act as a production company mandated to make ten films in five years. We’re in pre-production right now on four of the first ten. That’s all in this part of my career where it’s time to address my legacy issues and how I would make films if I were to do it on my own. So I have this production company to make the movies that I’d like to see, and I’m executive producing my first TV show while writing my memoirs, and those were all things I wanted to do before I round all of the bases.
Ron Perlman’s EASY STREET (THE HARD WAY) is now available on Hardcover, Kindle and Audiobook from Da Capo Press. HAND OF GOD is now streaming for free on Amazon Instant Video, and you can also hear him in the new animated film, THE BOOK OF LIFE, in theaters now.